Sweating is part of the Southeast Asian experience, but sometimes I am in utter discomfort because of my estrogen-starved hot flashes in equatorial heat and humidity. Being the early retired, budget savvy, breast cancer-slaying bad ass I am, I set out on trips to markets and discount stores, confident I’d find the perfect fabric – not cotton or polyester – to help keep me cool and dry during hot flash hell at a reasonable price.
But my confidence waned when I couldn’t find fast-drying, breathable clothes that didn’t cost a fortune.
I was about to give up when one day, during a downpour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I ducked into a store called Uniqlo and I had a look around.
That’s when I found — Airism.
Aaahhhhhhhh… what a relief. This stuff is like a near-miracle for a sweaty, hormonally-changing, perimenopausal middle aged woman. Even if I wasn’t a couple hundred miles from the equator, I’d still buy Airism to keep me cool and dry.
What is Airism?
The Airism line is engineered and manufactured by Uniqlo, a Japanese company with stores in Southeast Asia and limited stores in the U.S. I don’t recall ever seeing one, but I’ve hardly been in the U.S. since August 2015.
Uniqlo claims Airism “innerwear” is moisture wicking, releases heat, is smooth and cool to the touch, dries fast, stretches, controls odor, and neutralizes odor — even after multiple washings.
“Yeeeaaahhh, ssuuuuurrre, rrriiiiight,” I thought as I looked at the packaging in the store. You haven’t seen a perimenopausal breast cancer survivor on tamoxifen sweating her ass off and fanning herself like mad.
The store had a video display with people throwing liquids on various material, including Airism. I watched, and I wondered: could this really be what I was looking for?
My intense hot flashes happen a once or twice an hour and last about five freaking minutes. My torso, head and neck get it the worst, but sometimes it’s so bad my shins and elbows get wet. I want to strip down naked wherever I am.
As a budget traveler, I wasn’t keen on spending $10 on a tank top when an average cotton top goes for a dollar to two – or less – in a thrift store or street market bin.
But, lucky me! The store had a sale section with less popular colors like peach, yellow, and lilac for only 10 ringgits, or about $2.50. So I bought a lilac-colored tank top on clearance to try it out.
OMG: Airism lived up to its advertising!
Airism feels like I’m wearing nothing. After a hot flash hits, I’m dry in a couple of minutes. I wore my lilac tank for a full day, morning, noon, and night, through a bunch of wet hot flashes. I always dried fast. Before bed, the Airism tank top did not smell bad. Other reviews on the internet say the material holds up well after many wears and washings.
What is this stuff?
The Airism tank tops are billed as “innerwear” – designed to be worn under another shirt because it’s somewhat transparent (my mastectomy scars and lumps are easily visible if you look).
The Airism innerwear tank tops are 59% nylon, 31% cupro, 10% spandex. Apparently, it’s the cupro that manages body heat.
Although all Airism items claim moisture-wicking and fast-drying properties, not all Airism items are made with cupro. For example, the ‘lounge wear’ T-shirts and shorts are 56% polyester, 39% modal, 5% spandex.
The Airism line also has non-transparent tank tops with built-in bras (which do me no good), T-shirts, shorts, bras, underwear, long sleeve tops. Because Malaysia is 62 percent Muslim, Uniqlo sells Airism hijab innerwear. I saw Airism pants on the company’s website, but not in the store.
I bought three more light-colored tank tops on clearance, and splurged at full price (a whopping $10) for one dark navy tank top that covers my bilateral mastectomy scars, lumps, and valleys.
Airism also makes clothing for men – including tank tops, T-shirts and underwear.
One more shout out to Uniqlo – this time for its “RealCo” drape pants and drape 3/4 shorts, priced in Kuala Lumpur at $10 and $8 respectively. These are made of rayon, and they are simple wide-legged pants with a drawstring waist. I needed these for mosquito protection. If you’re gonna wear pants near the equator to deter blood-sucking bugs while on fire from hot flashes, these are a good option.
By the way, RealCo stands for Real Clothing. And Uniqlo comes from Unique Clothing.
Bottom line: this company gets it.
Uniqlo delivers quality items that do as advertised, and which cost far less than traditional “travel brands” like Colombia.
I’m still sweaty and fanning myself like mad. I’m spending more time inside, in my light-colored Airism tank tops, in air conditioning. These hot flashes are affecting the quality of my life, and if they don’t level off eventually, I don’t see how I can keep taking this drug. But for now, I’ll stick with it, and I’m glad to have some Airism tops.
I want to end with a nod to my mom: I finally get what you went through with these dang hot flashes, mom, for seven long years! Although yours were not tamoxifen induced, I now understand how much you suffered. “It’s hot in here!!!”